This is going to be appearing in the new Star Empire zine, \”She Makes Me All Emo Squishy Inside\”, but as I\’m too lazy to type up a separate account of tonight, you get to read it here, first.
PUNK ROCK DOESN\’T JUST BELONG TO YOU
I am ever so glad I went to the Bis show tonight.
I spent an hour looking for parking and was just about to give up when
I found a spot six blocks from the club. I walked into the Black Cat
just as Metropolitan – the opening act – were playing their last song.
The area around the stage cleared up and I walked right up to the
right hand side by the stacks and sat down on the stage. This is my
favorite show watching spot; I\’ve seen some great shows from there:
Space, Peaches & Gonzales, Elastica, Fugazi. As usual, my spot came in
handy. I was sitting not six inches from \”Sci Fi\” Steven.
I was able to make eye contact with everyone in the band and Amanda
(no longer going by just Manda, I was told later) and I shared a goofy
smile at one point.
The show was positively rocking. Bis were in top form, and having a
live drummer really makes a shitload of difference. The band emitted a
great deal of energy, with the stage literally quaking under John and
Steven\’s feet. Truly, we were in wonder of John Disco\’s skanking
abilities tonight. (Unfortunately we did not get to hear him say
\”Travolta ain\’t got nothing on me\”.)
Halfway throught the energetic set, Steven kicked his beer over right
by my leg. I uprighted the bottle, saving half the amber liquid (and
watching the rest pool around Steven\’s guitar amp). I glanced up to
see Steven smiling at me, mouthing \’thank you\’ and giving me a wink.
At that moment, I knew I was in.
I started thinking up questions on the spot. I bemoaned the fact that
I carried my notebook around with me for a month with nothing
happening, then left it home tonight – the one night I\’d need it.
The show ended after a blistering, crowd-going-wild verion of \”Kandy
Pop\”. I gracefully (read: tripped over a wire) reached up the stage
and grabbed myself Steven\’s set list. I then made my way downstairs to
see if I could find Steven. No luck. Back upstairs I went, and there
he was talking to the soundman.
I walked up to him and he smiled and again thanked me for saving his
beer. I stuck out my hand, introduced myself and asked him if he\’d
mind being interviewed for my zine.
The outcome of his answer is obvious; who could possibly resist my
We stuck around a few minutes more so he could sign autographs (see
page X for related autograph dissection) for those that recognized
him, then we headed backstage and downstairs to the lavender room.
I pulled up some floor, borrowed a pen, and began what would become an
hour long conversation with Steven. Believe me, I am seriously kicking
myself for not having my notebook or my recorder, because I only have
fragmented notes from a great conversation. Let\’s see what I can
I broke the ice by asking my current favorite ice breaking question:
ever heard of Peaches and Chilly Gonzales, and if so, what do you
Steven\’s face lit up and we launched into a ten minute conversation
about Peaches and Gonzales stories. He told me that on one of his
DJing gigs in Glasgow (oh, drool!), Peaches was there and spun her own
set (double drool!). \”Peaches is very sweet, but you don\’t want to
mess with her on stage – she has presence.\” Very much an
understatement, but said with such earnest vigor that I could only
We shot the shit about how great it would be to get Peaches and
Gonzales on stage with Bis – what an electric combination! Steven said
he would definitely be excited to work with Peaches; he said he\’d seen
her shows (solo and with Gonzales) and had hung with Peaches but had
never directly met Jason (Gonzales). I mentioned that I didn\’t think
Gonzales would tolerate another male other than Patric C and that
whole crew on his stage, and Steven laughed and said I was probably
right and that he wouldn\’t want to chance it.
Mention of Patric C, Chilly Gonzales and Peaches segued into the
\’influences and comparisons\’ question. When Bis first started out,
there were many comparisons made to bands like Huggy Bear and Bikini
Kill, which is only natural, Steven said, because those were some of
their biggest influences – them and the B-52s. These days Bis has
added more drum machines and synthesizers, but have maintained their
\”pop sensibility\”. The shared lyrical content, energy and musical
style now leads many to compare them to such bands as Le Tigre
(featuring Kathleen Hanna, ex-Bikini Kill member) and Atari Teenage
Riot. Again, Steven said, he doesn\’t mind the comparisons because
those are Bis\’ peers, friends and current influences. He did say,
however, that it was kind of sad that those early riot grrrl
influences were no longer together, that he missed Huggy Bear and was
glad that Bis had the gel necessary to stay together.
So speaking of current influences, I had to ask the cliche of all
cliches: what are you listening to right now? \”Adult. – that\’s
a-d-u-l-t with a full stop\” (a band I\’ve yet to be able to uncover any
information on, and a \’full stop\’ is a period for those not in the UK
speak-know) and \”Fischerspooner from New York\”. (Fischerspooner are an
amazing electro-cabaret act – see page X for review.)
I forwent a segue and jumped right to the next question I could come
up with: what did Steven think of the situation with the Butchies and
Le Tigre playing the Michigan Wimmin\’s Music Festival – a festival
that denies entrance to all non female-born women (which means all
transgender MtF) – when they are supposed to be supporters of the GLBT
community. Steven hadn\’t actually heard anything about this even
though he\’s friends with members of the Butchies and Le Tigre, so I
filled him in (see page X for more info on matter).
Steven told me that it was, in his mind, a difficult situation. As he
is friends with the bands and supports their choices, but is also a
supporter of the GLBT community, he said that he couldn\’t really go
one way or the other. He said he understood the bands\’ positions, and
that he also understands the argument for \’women-only safe spaces\’,
but that he really couldn\’t support the issue one way or the other.
Look at us (Bis), he told me. We\’re (now) 75% male, but we still try
to include women in our audiences and we still try to reach out to
everyone, regardless. \”No one should be excluded from hearing our
music, even if it\’s the fucking jock guy who listens to Limp Bizkit\”
At this point I got so caught up in the conversation that for the most
part, I stopped taking coherent notes. Damn my lack of tape recorder!
After spending a good portion of time on the inclusion issue, we
talked about how Bis are glad to be off of Grand Royal (mostly because
Grand Royal was owned by Capitol Records and it was Capitol who cut
them a raw deal) and back on a tight-knit indie (spinART
http://www.spinartrecords.com). Steven said he \”feels bad for the
(people who worked at Grand Royal) because they lost their jobs\” but
on the other hand, he said he wants to just say \”I don\’t give a fuck\”
because of the way Capitol shafted them. All may be fair in love and
war, but certainly not in the record industry.
From Grand Royal shutting down we moved to another sombre topic – the
recent death of Atari Teenage Riot\’s founder, Carl Crack (dead Sept
2001 of an apparent suicide). Steven said it was a very sad thing, but
that it wasn\’t a surprise. The last time he had seen Carl was two
years ago at an ATR show, and he looked really bad, totally gone and
\”completely fucked up\”. He said he knew Alec (Empire) and Hanin
(Elias) would continue on with their joint projects, but that if one
of his (Steven\’s) band members ever died, that would be it for Bis,
that it was a group effort.
And here my notes completely stopped.
Other things we discussed were how Bis \’received a box of Bis tshirts
on their doorstep\’ (according to the Bis website
http://www.bisnation.com), but Steven knew nothing about that. He did
tell me, however, that the first batch of shirts they ever had done,
the printing peeled off after one wash so they had to say fuck it use
and an expensive outsourced printer. He told me Bis\’ printing costs
are now about $5 a shirt, which is why they sell for $12 at the shows.
I told him he was getting ripped off and should get in touch with my
printer, but then I forgot to give him that info. Oops.
We talked about Bis\’ other corporate connections – the G-Shock watch
(Steven wears a G-Shock currently, but it\’s not a Bis one. He says he
gave all of his away to friends, but that the next time he\’s in Japan
he\’ll probably pick up a new one \”for about $2\”.), appearances on the
BBC and of course, the infamous Powerpuff Girl theme song.
Unfortunately, I remember very little about this part of the
Steven mentioned that compared to the other cities on this tour, D.C. show
had the least amount of dancing. I meant to explain to him the whole
\”people in D.C. think they are too cool to dance\” thing, but I never got
around to it.
We also discussed our mutual enthusiasm for having a live drummer for
the shows now. According to Steven (and I agree), the drummer (shite,
I forget his name) is fantastically strong and manages to create a
whole sound and vibe that \”fills the venue\” every night with a power,
consistency, energy and flair that the drum machines just did not
convey. He says Bis are unlikely to ever go back to playing live
without a drummer because they\’ve reworked all the songs, including
the old ones, to operate with the drums instead of the drum machines,
and they sound much better this way.
More shit was shot about Scotland in general, Glasgow and Edinburgh in
particular, and of course, Stirling – \”one of the bigger shit holes in
Scotland, and I\’m sorry you ever had to go there. My father lives
there, and well, I hate the man.\” In Steven\’s opinion, Glasgow is the
place to be; he says he\’d never want to live anywhere else. He had
thought about New York City for awhile, but by the time he\’d been
there twice, the novelty had worn off.
We compared Glasgow to Baltimore (\’totally fucking ghetto, crawling
with underground culture\’) and Edinburgh to Boston (\’lots of rich
international students and tourists with a high gloss painted over
At this point in the conversation Steven yawned and said he was
\”knackered\”, so I asked him to write a little thingy I could photocopy
for the zine (see side graphic), which he obligingly did with a smile.
I gathered myself from off the slightly wet and sticky floor, said
thanks, shook his hand, and took off.
And that was my conversation with Sci-Fi Steven.
By the way, for those I\’ve talked to about this (\”You saw who?\” and
\”What\’s Bis?\”) Bis is a disco-punk-pop band from Glasgow, Scotland.
It\’s members are \”Sci Fi\” Steven, John \”Disco\” and Manda Rin. Their
previous U.S. distributor was Grand Royal; you can find their prior
releases such as \’New Transistor Heroes\’ and \’Social Dancing\’ on Grand
Royal. Earlier releases were on Wiija and current releases are on
spinART. Average age of Bis members: 24. \’Bis\’ in German means \’to\’.
For more information on Bis (the band) check out their official
website, Bis Nation (http://www.bisnation.com). For more information
on German… \”fuck it, I\’m gonna move to Germany\”